Notable Women


Austrian, German and Swiss Frauen

“Politik ist eine viel zu ernste Sache, als dass man sie allein den Männern überlassen könnte.”
“Politics is far too serious a matter to be left solely to men.” – Käte Strobel (1907-1996)

Frauen-Power is a somewhat dated German term that refers to the strong role that women have played and continue to play in the world. Germany got its first female chancellor in November 2005, when Angela Merkel assumed office. She has proved to be a strong leader, and has now served as German chancellor for over a decade.

But you may be surprised by the number of other women who have played a role in the history of the German-speaking countries. The following women from Austria, Germany and Switzerland have played a significant role in the fields of art, business, fashion, politics, cinema, literature and science – past and present:

Notable Women | bemerkenswerte Frauen

  • Ursula Andress (1936- ) – Swiss film actress; the first “Bond” girl (Dr. No)
  • Bettina von Arnim (1784-1859) – German poet, writer
  • Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) – German-American political theorist and historian
  • Nadja Auermann (1970- ) – German fashion model
Ursula Andress

The iconic image of Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962). The beach scenes were filmed in Jamaica. PHOTO: EON/Danjaq

  • Maya Ayim (1960-1996) – Afro-German poet, writer
  • Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) – German writer, composer, nun – WEB: Hildegard von Bingen (fordham.edu)
  • Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) – German-American film actress
  • Doris Dörrie (1955- ) – German film director
  • Ruth Dreifuss (1940- ) – Swiss politician
  • Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797-1848) – German writer
  • Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) – Austrian writer
  • Steffi Graf (1969- ) – German tennis champion who now lives in Las Vegas with her husband Andre Agassi and their children
  • Nina Hagen (1955- ) – German singer
  • Martina Hingis (1980- ) – Swiss tennis champion
  • Anke Huber (1974- ) – German tennis champion
  • Angelika Kaufmann (1741-1807) – Swiss-Austrian painter
  • Heidi Klum (1973- ) – German TV star and fashion model
  • Hildegard Knef (1925-2002) – German actress, singer and writer
  • Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) – German artist, sculptor
  • Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) – Austrian-American film actress, inventor
  • Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976) – German soprano
  • Ulrike Marie Meinhof (1934-1976) – German RAF terrorist
  • Lise Meitner (1878-1968) – Austrian physicist who discovered nuclear fission
  • Maria Sybylla Merian (1643-1717) – German naturalist
  • Angela Merkel (1954- ) – German politician, Germany’s first female chancellor
  • Paula Moderson-Becker (1876-1907) – German painter
  • Gabriele Münter (1877-1962) – German expressionist painter
  • Anne-Sophie Mutter (1963- ) – German violin virtuoso
  • Nena (Susanne Kerner, 1961- ) German singer
  • Amalie Emmy Noether (1882-1935) – Influential German Jewish mathematician (born in Erlangen, Bavarian) known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics. In 1933 she left Göttingen and accepted a position at Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania. She died of cancer in the US in April 1935.
  • Auma Obama (1960- ) – The president’s half-sister studied and lived in Germany
  • Franka Potente (1974- ) – German film actress (Run Lola Run, The Bourne Identity
  • Hanna Reitsch (1912-1979) – Famous Nazi test pilot
  • Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003) – German film director
  • Nelly Sachs (1891-1970) – German Jewish poet and playwright
  • Jil Sander (1943- ) – German fashion designer, business leader
  • Claudia Schiffer (1971- ) – Former German fashion model
  • Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) – German anti-Nazi protester (“White Rose”) executed by the Nazi regime, along with her brother Hans.
  • Clara Schumann (1819-1896) – German musician, composer
  • Elisabeth Schwarzhaupt (1901-1986) – German politician (CDU), first woman to head a federal ministry in Germany (Minister of Health, 1961-1966), early crusader for women’s rights
  • Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006) – German-born Austrian opera singer
  • Heidi Simonis (1943-) – German politician
  • Rita Süssmuth (1937- ) – German politician
  • Bertha Suttner (1843-1914) – Austrian novelist, Nobel Peace Prize winner (1905)
  • Käte Strobel (1907-1996) – German politician (SPD)
  • Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943) – Swiss painter, sculptor
  • Margarethe von Trotta (1942- ) – German film director
  • Rosina Wachtmeister (1939- ) – German artist – WEB: More

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